Do Your Laundry Or You’ll Die Alone: The Wit and Wisdom of Becky Blades

Lisa writes: Mary Dell and I have read Becky Blades’ beautiful volume, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone,  and we love it. We don’t just love it because we have high school (and college!) graduates this year. We love it because it is the perfect gift of wit and wisdom for any girl/young woman, age 15-25, and because of the messages of empowerment, understanding and optimism Becky conveys.  It is a little manual for life, and who doesn’t need that?

Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

But Becky’s book is even better with some of the back story. Her slender and beautifully illustrated volume is very much a “mom story” that so many of us can relate to, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her to hear  firsthand.

Interview With Author Becky Blades

Lisa: You say in the book that you wrote this as a reminder to oldest daughter before she headed off to Harvard? Why did she need reminding and why didn’t you just tell her what you had to say?

Becky: My firstborn, Taylor Kay, was a driven child, and busy, busy, busy. Every minute seemed so intense – with few of those hang-around-and-chat moments where topics just come up. When we WERE in the same room, I shared her attention with the crowd of people who were texting or Facebooking on her phone. Since she was working so hard, and I didn’t want every conversation to be an argument, I gave her a pass on that, and other things – like doing her laundry.

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Kids Going to College: Getting Your Heart and Head Ready

Lisa writes: When we published a post last summer about our kids going to college, we thought we had missed a most important moment and had one only chance left, when our youngest leave.  We were wrong.

Move in Day at the Freshman Dorm

Parenthood has two big transitions, when our children arrive and when they leave. Mary Dell and I managed the first and, with our older sons, we have faced the second. Our youngest children are now leaving for college, a moment we have looked forward to and dreaded for almost two decades. A year ago when we considered this topic we were struck by the real wisdom offered by  Marshall P. Duke, Professor at Emory University in this wonderful piece he wrote for The Huffington Post.

“It is a moment that comes along once in a lifetime. Each child only starts college once. …Such moments are rare. They have power. They give us as parents one-time opportunities to say things to our children that will stick with them not only because of what is said, but because of when it is said.

Here is what I tell the parents: think of what you want to tell your children when you finally take leave of them and they go off to their dorm and the beginning of their new chapter in life and you set out for the slightly emptier house that you will now live in. What thoughts, feelings and advice do you want to stick? “Always make your bed!”? “Don’t wear your hair that way!”? Surely not. This is a moment to tell them the big things. Things you feel about them as children, as people. Wise things. Things that have guided you in your life. Ways that you hope they will live. Ways that you hope they will be. Big things. Life-level things.”

Professor Duke suggests a letter, that I did not write, to impart to  your now independent child all the important things you want them to know.  This letter, he reminds us, will not be deleted but kept and the message absorbed.

When I read his exceptional piece and all I could think was, “I blew it.”  I have sent two sons off to college without any attention to the profound.  I was saddened  for the missed opportunity and hoped I might be redeemed with my third and final opportunity when my youngest son goes to college.

And then I read the very wise professor more carefully (as I urge you to.)  Our children will, hopefully, cross many important thresholds in their young adulthood.  There will be first jobs and real loves.  There will be engagements and marriages.  They will face heart-wrenching disappointments and the joys of parenthood. At each of these moments, if and when they occur, we have a chance to quietly offer our thoughts to be accepted or rejected, but to be heard.

For many of us, the milestone moment on the horizon is our kids going to college. While Professor Duke offers advice for the heart, here are practical suggestions from BTDT* moms.

Off to College:

Last year we asked a group of very experienced moms to share their collective wisdom on saying goodbye to the kids going to college. Their advice spans the gamut from the very practical to the very personal, from the trivial to the monumental.  Other friends, the authors of the great book College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, offer professional advice:

In the end, our job as parents is to leave them with both the right size sheets and a sense that they are well equipped for this next, independent stage of life.  The challenges are no greater or lesser than when they arrived eighteen years ago.

How to Get All this Done:

If you haven’t already gotten a reservation at a hotel for drop offs, visiting days, and graduation you are probably too late. Reserve as soon as they make their college decision.

In all the excitement of move-in day, remember to eat.  A day full of packing and unpacking can go south very quickly when it’s suddenly 4pm and energy levels are low (nobody wants a meltdown in front of their new roommate!)

Have some practice sessions doing laundry at home before attempting this daring task for the first time at school.  And yes, bringing a cheat sheet along is just fine.  To the parents whose children have conned them into paying for University laundry service (as mine did) – when they complain about the laundry service losing or ruining their clothing, remind them that they could do it themselves.

Tell them to take everything out of their pockets when they do their laundry, ink stains do not enhance any clothing item.

When they return for the summer designate a place in your house for all the “stuff” that comes home and will go right back in the fall….otherwise with multiple kids it gets lost among your other things as they dump stuff all over the house.

What they might need:

You know the basics but here are a few extras.

You can buy a hand vac and cleaning materials but they will never use them.  It is for you to use when you visit.

First thing to buy is a mattress cover to keep bed bugs out.  It zips the mattress in and you have no worries, at least about bed bugs.

Register at The Container Store to pick up at the location nearest to their dorm.  Over register for items because you don’t have to buy everything you picked out.  It is just conveniently waiting for you on site if you want to make the purchase.

Buy earphones in case a roommate is listening to music or only goes to sleep with the TV on.

Bring a simple tool kit, a hammer, screwdriver and the like. it will be borrowed a lot.

Above all, be healthy:

The first time one of my kids got sick freshman year, I wished I had sent throat lozenges, pain reliever and a thermometer.  And, also thought about asking my daughter to sign a health release form so that I could talk with the infirmary nurse.

Find  the closest 24 hour pharmacy…not just for setting your daughter up but in case she needs something in the middle of the night. At 3 am when she needs a pharmacy, you and she will be glad you located it in advance.

College health centers might be limited, so ask other parents whose kids are older or residents of the town your child will be in…..having a great internist available when your kid is really sick and far from home is very helpful.  Don’t forget to fax their health records to get them established long before your child might need the help.

Tech Support:

Get TWO flash drives to back up the computer. Nothing worse than a call at 2 am telling you their computer crashed with their 20 page paper on it!

Try to get contact info for the university tech help center – the wireless printers NEVER work on move in day.  And we were never able to locate anyone to help.

They really only need one printer/room.  So all of those free printers that come along with the new mac you’ll be buying for college?  Take the cash instead if one of the roommates is bringing a wireless printer

Set up find my phone/iPad/iMac – sadly, you will probably need to use it.

And most important, Mom and Dad Support:

Don’t project your angst. They have enough on their minds with new roommates and surroundings. The details, in time, will take care of themselves.

Take their lead – even though you have more experience – this is their moment.

Put your need to be needed second to their need to find their own way.

It doesn’t all have to be done perfectly – even if it’s easier. This is their turn to figure out how they like their room to look, how to arrange their books…don’t take that away from them.

Try not to worry too much…and don’t keep calling. You might even ask how often they would like to speak at the beginning.

Be prepared for random phone calls and then quick hang ups.  These will come mostly from girls who are walking alone across campus, and don’t like to “walk alone.”  Therefore, you become their walking buddy.  As soon as they reach their destination or bump into a friend, expect the “gotta go now.”  Take whatever you can get, though.

Send cards/notes/newspaper articles – via postal service.

And, finally, plan a fun activity for yourself the day after you send or drop your child off so that you don’t notice how quiet the house is.

*BTDT – been there, done that

Empty Nest Cooking

Mary Dell writes: What’s for dinner? is our kids way of saying hello to us as they walk into the door from school. Akin to the movie Groundhog Day, we seek an answer to this same old question every 24 hours. But one day, perhaps while sipping a first cup of coffee in our empty nest, we realize the question has ceased to be so very pressing.

After 20 years of grocery shopping an average of 2.2 times a week, preparing family meals 3.5 times a week, many of us are, frankly, happy to say goodbye to the stage in our lives where we logged 2300 trips to the store to cook over 4000 dinners!

But transitioning from pushing baskets overflowing with each child’s favorite foods to shopping for just one or two adults, means thinking about cooking in a new way. Gone are the long lists, junky snacks and super-sized quantities.  We have a chance to reboot our eating habits, ditching tired family favorites along the way.

cooking class, new recipes, pretty dining room table

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Tips for the Best Parents’ Weekend

Lisa writes: September’s turmoil is winding down.  Bed Bath and Beyond has been depleted, dorm move-in has been successfully accomplished, and classes are in full swing.  As parents, we can stop worrying about the transition to college and plan the visit.  If you live close enough to your college age child and do not want to wait until Thanksgiving to see them, well, it’s time for a little journey.  Some schools have an established Parents’ Weekend or you might just be heading to school on your own…either way, here are some things to think about.

parents' weekend

Bring food, after all they are teens, need I say more. If you bake, you are a goddess. If you can’t bring provisions, the grocery store makes a nice family outing.

In my informal poll, okay my Facebook page, there was a strong feeling that “Parents’ Weekend” was not really the best parents’ weekend, that the crowds and the staged events were not the optimal atmosphere in which to visit offspring.  Personal opinion will need to prevail.

If you are going to take your kid and, perhaps, their friends out, book early, really early. You will be unpleasantly surprised how fast reservations for hotels and restaurants in a college town will fill up for Parents’ Weekend.  I reserved a hotel for parents’ weekend the night my son picked his college, a touch neurotic you say? [Read more…]

College Parents Discover a Secret to Staying Close With Kids

From Gabby, a Grown and Flown writer: In the spirit of saying goodbye to your child, we college parents want to assure you that “goodbye” isn’t for long….

college parents, college kids, family vacation at the beach, family vacation

My witty sister-in-law coined the expression “Forced Family Fun” when referring to the mandatory family gatherings in which she requires her reluctant teens to take part.  It has entered our family vernacular as we try to gather together all of the cousins, even those who are less enthusiastic about the “togetherness.” [Read more…]